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Should Variegated Lily Turf Be Cut Back?

Should Variegated Lily Turf Be Cut Back?

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Variegated Lily Turf, known botanically as the Liriope Muscari ‘Variegata,’ and often called Liriope, is a beautiful evergreen recognized for its dense, grass-like foliage. The plant is relatively hardy to environmental stress and considered low maintenance. However, you may want to cut your Liriope back every now and then.

You should cut back your Variegated Lily Turf in the early spring to prepare it for the upcoming growing season. This also cleans up old, unattractive leaves or foliage damaged by the recently passed winter. 

In this article, I’ll tell you whether or not you should cut back your Variegated Lily Turf and explain the benefits of doing so. Stick around if you want to learn more. 

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Cut Your Variegated Liriope in the Early Spring

The Variegated Lily Turf is a hardy plant. It can tolerate most forms of environmental stress and will recover from everyday damage without you even noticing. 

It’s not necessary to cut back your Variegated Lily Turf because of how self-sufficient it is, but I recommend doing so occasionally for the numerous benefits involved. 

Like most other plants, the Variegated Lily Turf is best pruned, trimmed, or cut back in early spring or right after the worst of winter has passed (source). 

This plant typically falls dormant in the winter. In hardiness zones under 10, the foliage may die off during winter. In higher hardiness zones, the plant will retain most of its body through the winter but won’t necessarily be in good shape afterward.

Either way, the Variegated Liriope will regrow to its standard adult size in the coming year. By cutting off the old, spent foliage before it regrows in the spring, you’ll prevent the plant from spending resources on sustaining visually unappealing foliage. 

A pruned plant will instead dedicate all of its efforts toward new growth. 

It’s important not to wait too long before cutting back your Liriope. You want to trim it before it grows new foliage, typically during spring. If you delay for too long and unknowingly cut off the new foliage, you’ll have to wait for longer before the plant can return to its standard size. 

If it’s already mid-spring for you, it may just be best to postpone pruning until next year. 

See also Does Lily Turf Stay Green All Winter?

How To Go About the Cutting Process

You can cut back your Variegated Lily Turf’s foliage all the way; just take care not to hurt the crown. This is where your plant will grow the new foliage from. The crown typically rests an inch or two above ground level.

You can use a hedge trimmer or a lawn mower to cut back your variegated Liriope. Set the blades to their highest elevation.

For most standard machines, this will be about three to four inches above ground leve—this allows you to comfortably mow over the crown without damaging it and, potentially, any new growth, while also cutting back most of the plant’s length.

While I recommend using a lawn mower for efficiency and convenience, you can also get the job done with scissors or shears if you want greater control over the process. Just remember to leave the crown untouched. 

Important: If your Variegated Liriope has black lesions on the foliage, it may be harboring fungi such as Anthracnose. You should sanitize your cutting blades in diluted bleach (1/10th concentration) before getting to work to prevent the fungi from spreading (source).

Remember to remove and dispose of the cut foliage once you’re done. Leaving it be is not an option, because once it begins decomposing, it will be a breeding ground for pathogens and attract all sorts of unwanted pests. 

Why You Should Cut Back Your Variegated Lily Turf

Here are a few scenarios where I recommend you cut back your Variegated Lily Turf. 

The Foliage Is Old or Damaged

Old, damaged foliage looks visually unappealing, which, if you think about it, kind of defeats the purpose of having this beautiful, dense, grass-like plant. 

Pruning for visual purposes is best done during the early spring. It’s okay to do it any other time of the year too, but you’ll have to wait longer for regrowth. 

You should definitely prune off any damaged foliage as soon as you spot it. Most of the time, damaged foliage is simply not worth keeping around. It saps away valuable resources from the plant for sustenance and recovery. 

It’s more resource-efficient to generate new growth rather than nurse severely damaged foliage back to full health. 

Additionally, if the damage is caused by something like frost or overwatering, it’s rarely ever reversible. Black foliage indicates rotting, which invites disease and can spread to other parts of the plant if left unattended.

The Liriope Is Infected

The Liriope is relatively disease-resistant, but it has a particular weakness: Anthracnose. This class of soil-based fungi can cause the plant to lose foliage, wither, or change color. 

These fungi often manifest as dark spots or lesions on plant foliage (source).

If you notice these symptoms on your variegated Liriope, you should try cutting back as much of the infected foliage as possible. Don’t wait for early spring—getting rid of the fungi takes precedence. 

The Plant Has Grown Beyond an Acceptable Size

Variegated Lily Turfs aren’t the fastest-growing plant, but they will grow. Their grass-like foliage can grow up to 15 inches in height, which can look untidy or out of place in certain backgrounds (source).

Feel free to cut back your Variegated Liriope any time of the year if it helps you achieve your decorative desires. 

Final Thoughts

The Variegated Lily Turf is a hardy, self-sufficient plant that doesn’t necessarily need to be cut back annually. However, there are certain benefits to doing so. You end up with fresh, cleaner-looking growth, and you rid the plant of old and damaged foliage.

The best time to prune this plant is the early spring before it grows new foliage. Take care not to cut off the crown.

I recommend going for an immediate cutting if you notice fungal growth, one of the few weaknesses of the resilient Liriope.

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Willie Moore
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